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Political poll guru Nate Silver of The New York Times has written a detailed analysis of Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the election based on the polls so far.The bottom line?
Romney’s chances are low.
According to Silver’s analysis, Obama’s odds of winning reelection have risen sharply in the past week and are now a startling 80%.
Meanwhile, Silver observes, Romney has almost never led in the national polls, which is highly unusual in what is ostensibly a tight race. In the past, when candidates have never led in the polls, the election has ended up being a landslide for the leader. Silver doesn’t think this election will be a landslide, but he views Romney’s perpetual weak showing in national polls as an ominous sign.
Why is Romney polling so poorly?
Silver suggests it is because the Republican base has now become “too narrow” relative to the views of the rest of the country.
Put differently, the Republican party ideology is now dominated by extremists whose views are not shared by the swing voters in the centre.
Some of the key constituencies Romney is alienating who have helped Republicans win in the past, Silver says, include:
- Hispanics, who don’t like Romney’s embrace of the right-wing anti-immigration stance.
- Midwest “Reagan Democrats” who aren’t crazy about Romney’s opposition to the auto bailouts.
- “Security mums,” who aren’t hearing much national-security talk from Romney.
- Highly educated, fiscally conservative, social progressives who support some of Romney’s economic policies but don’t like his stance on gay marriage, abortion, and other issues that restrict choice and increase the government’s intrusion into citizens lives.
This last group in particular, Silver says, was critical to Romney’s election victory in Massachusetts. But now, because Romney has changed his stance on some of these issues to appeal to the right-wing of the Republican party, Romney is alienating a centrist constituency that could help him win the Presidency.
Romney has two clear selling points in this election:
- The economy is crappy (which he can blame on Obama).
- Unlike Obama, Romney has shown an exceptional ability to “get the job done.”
As a result, many of the voters in that last group–fiscally conservative social progressives–have likely been quietly hoping that Romney’s embrace of the extreme right-wing social positions was merely a sales pitch to win the primary and that, now that Romney’s the nominee, he can just shake his “Etch-a-Sketch” again and become the fiscally conservative social progressive he was in Massachusetts.
As yet, however, he hasn’t done that. And he’s losing.
So maybe it’s time for him to do that.For example, maybe it’s time for Romney to state clearly that he understands how important immigration is to this country—especially immigration for highly educated and skilled prospective citizens—and that, as President, he will do something to facilitate that.
Maybe it’s time for Romney to state that, although he personally does not condone abortion, he would never do anything that might make it illegal (and, to emphasise why, he can tell the story about the reality of what happened to a close relative of his—and many other American women—when abortion was illegal). Romney’s sister said this about Romney a couple of weeks ago, and a lot of voters would like to believe it.
Maybe it’s time for Romney to say that he supports the rights of individual states to allow people to marry whomever they want to marry.
Maybe it’s time for Romney to explain more clearly that he now thinks that some economic stimulus, in the form of tax cuts combined with continued heavy deficit spending, will help the country work its way out of its current malaise—and that, once the economy is growing rapidly again, long-term deficit and debt reduction can become the primary goal.
There is evidence to suggest that Romney actually believes all this (or did a few years ago) and that, left to his own devices, these are policies he would support.
And maybe Romney does actually plan to support these policies and is just not saying so because he doesn’t want to look even more like a flip-flopper.
If so, maybe it’s time for Romney to stop playing not to lose and start playing to win.
The extreme positions of today’s Republican base are hurting, not helping, him with many Americans who might otherwise support him.
So, even beyond the reasonable-ness of these centrist positions, he doesn’t really have anything to lose …
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